A Project To Un-Define Beauty: This Is Me
WORDS BY: STEPHANIE PEREZ
PHOTOS BY: JORDAN DANIELS
We live in a world where people aren’t celebrated for who they are. Instead, they worry about fitting into society’s definition of beautiful.
CSULB student Jordan Daniels used to feel out of place and unrepresented in everyday life until he created a project that empowered him to feel confident.
The “This Is Me” project focuses on the concepts of self-love and acceptance of our perceived flaws. It serves as a platform to feel represented in society.
“The project was a chance for me to represent myself because I was tired of waiting for someone to represent me,” Daniels said. “I wanted to be my own agent of change for that, and I want people to share their story so they can become comfortable with themselves.”
The idea emerged from the “Eff Your Beauty Standards” movement in late March. Plus-size model Tess Holliday started the campaign to inspire others to unapologetically embrace their bodies.
At first the project only focused on body positivity, but Daniels realized the project could be so much more than being too thin or too fat. He wanted people to think about more than just body types – to think outside the box.
He took the idea to his personal Instagram account with the support of some friends who also decided to take part in the project. Eventually, he realized the project wouldn’t be taken seriously if he did not create a separate account for it.
Since then, the Instagram account has reached over 2,000 followers. It is modeled after Humans of New York, a blog project that includes photo portraits and feature stories, with a small excerpt to go with each photograph.
The account features people who want to join the self-love journey, ranging from CSULB students to a plus-size model. In a pair of photos, each participant’s body is outlined with words depicting what society has made them feel about themselves, contrasting them with messages of positivity.
“I definitely think I took a huge risk doing it because I thought people were going to see it and think I am ugly, fat and gross,” he said. “I kept telling myself I needed to do it and not care.”
He once thought he would never be good enough for love, so he chose to write “unworthy” and “unlovable” on his body for the project.
The project has helped Daniels, and it encourages anyone who has trouble with self-love to become a part of this self-acceptance. It is not about him telling your story; rather, it’s about YOU telling your story and becoming comfortable in your skin, he said.
When Daniels interviews someone to be featured in his project, he challenges them with ideas people don’t normally think about and explore. He wants to listen to their story because he knows whoever they are is important. Many have started to cry sharing the ways that society makes them feel unbeautiful.
“I think it is amazing that I am helping people break that barrier,” he said.
He gets numerous comments from people who say they want to join the project and mistakenly think it’s an exclusive thing. Anyone can join the “This is Me” movement, and he wants to make it work with people out of state, too.
Daniels has two other people on his team to help him bring awareness to the importance of self-love.
Sylvana Uribe joined the team as the publicist after she learned the project “was the opportunity to carve out a space on the Internet” for people to confront their insecurities.
Michelle Morte, the producer for the project’s upcoming short film, was inspired to showcase body positivity. In the spring semester, she had a screenwriting class with Daniels – where he wrote a script that pertained to the project.
“When he read it in class, I knew that this was going to be the next film I was going to produce,” Morte said. “I have been wanting to to produce a film about body positivity.”
They created a Seed & Spark Campaign, a crowdfunding source, which dropped last month in an attempt to raise $8,000 for the short film. The money will go toward things such as casting, crew and location. On the campaign website, people can donate to the overall fund or contribute individually to each filming component – in other words, you get to pick where you want your money to go toward.
“People will often rob you of yourself, but when you can see yourself and say, ‘I like me,’ you take the power back and have a healthy self-image,” Daniels said.